Thursday, January 12, 2006

Augustus Pugin's Legacy.

By spending a little extra time on Kevin Lippert's archlog DYWSC? finally stumbled on Olll's "Architecture photographs section" today. One could loose a half hour touring Tadao Ando's Water Temple. It is refreshing how the slideshows of 25 pictures can give an immersive experience of a building, in substitute for personally visiting. (Congrats to Olll for hitting the 1000-photo benchmark!) From the section's description...
"We want to present a different point of view, unlike the highly controlled and choreographed images from architecture journals, here we want to look at buildings more like how they look in real life, noticing all those little details that are never shown in other publications."
Why did this come as such a surprise? The quote gives a great first reason. Periodicals are forced to use an economy of images. Perhaps precedent unnecessarily limits lectures and slide-presentations too. Perhaps we have Agustus Pugin to blame.

Architectural presentations for consumption en mass began in book form; before there were lecture tours theorists did their convincing by text and illustration. Arguably the first true master of the method was Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. His seminal book Contrasts (Full Title: A Parallel between the Noble Edifices of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, and Similar Buildings of the Present Day; Shewing the Present Decay of Taste) showed images of gothic English hamlets against industrial revolution era images of the same places. Some quotes from the man who would start the march towards the International Style...
'1st, that there should be no features about a building, which are not necessary for convenience, construction or propriety; 2nd, that all ornament should consist of the essential construction of the building.'

'A man who remains any length of time in a modern Gothic room, and escapes without being wounded by some minutiae, may consider himself extremely fortunate'

'Architectural features are continually tacked on buildings which they have no connection, merely for the sake of what is termed effect; and ornaments are actually constructed, instead of forming the decoration of construction, to which in good taste they should always be subservient.'
...This post is meant to ask, "Why are many presentations still reliant on the two-slide method of presentation?" When the price of slides was a consequence, right up to the mid-nineties, it made sense that the double-carouseled talk ruled. How long until touring lectures are dominated by animations and models are presented with Google Earth?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I don't think I've ever seen Pugin referenced in a blog. When will you write about Ruskin and Morris? Victorian Era arch theory is going to be all the rage in a few more years, remember you heard it from me first.


1:15 AM  
Blogger J said...

Ruskin is a personal hero; I'm already looking forward to the day.


11:48 PM  

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